The first five months of 2015 saw international tourist arrivals to Greece increasedby 10.5 percent compared to the same period last year. Latest data from the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) coves arrivals at Greece's main airports for the period January-May. SETE puts the rise down to very high passenger traffic at the airports in Athens which saw a 26% rise and at Thessaloniki where numbers rose by 10%. Despite the 10.5% growth, tourist analysts are cautious about Greece and the Greek Islands reaching a record 25 million visitors forecast at the end of last year's record season. They point to a small drop in visitor numbers at the popular Greek holiday destinations of Heraklion on Crete (down 3,6%) and Rhodes (down 2.8%), the first decline in the past two years. Both the islands in the Cyclades and resorts on the mainland Peloponnese continue to show an upward trend.
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Greek Island Holidays 2015
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Independent holiday guides to Greece and the Greek islands. We try to keep our Greek holiday guides up to date but it's not easy. Please email Greek Islands Postcards if you spot any errors or omissions.
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As an antidote to the usual gushing Greece holiday brochures we offer a more prosaic peek at holidays in Greece and travel in the Greek islands with unbiased reports and independent guides to the best Greek beaches.
Our Popular islands list those in greatest demand. They usually have their own airport and plenty of tourist attractions.
The Peaceful islands tend to be off the main tourist trail and, while some have larger airports, others may need a ferry journey to reach them.
The Sleepy islands are well off the tourist track and may only be reached by ferry, with some a considerable distance from the nearest large airport.
Our Offbeat islands are mainly for those seeking a more remote and authentic holidays in Greece.
Featured Greek beaches
Stegna beach on Rhodes
Stegna beach is a small and pretty resort with a long stretch of golden sand and a small harbour. The resort is a mixture of sand and pebble with shallow waters. There is a pleasant beach cantina and some watersports.
Perivolos resort on Santorini
Perivolos forms part of the longest stretch of beach on Santorini. This popular black sand beach attracts a young and lively crowd and can be said, alongside Fira, to be at the heart of the Santorini island club scene.
Makryammos on Thassos
Makryammos has a white sand beach set in a pine-sheltered bay that is crammed with sunbeds, umbrellas and all the usual facilities for an organised family holiday beach with holiday bungalows in the hills.
Greece slipped into third place in the Blue Flag beach quality awards in 2015, picking up flags for only 395 beaches and nine marinas across Greece and the Greek Islands. It places Greece behind tourism rivals Spain, which topped the awards with 578 beaches, and by Turkey with 436 beaches now flying the Blue Flag. in 2014 Greece and the Greek islands were awarded a total of 408 Blue Flags, 15 more than the 2013 but this was cut dramatically when 38 Greek beaches were stripped of their Blue Flags after failing spot checks by beach inspectors. Most the Greek beaches losing the coveted Blue Flag were on the island of Corfu. Only seven Corfu beaches qualify for flags this year compared to 30 in 2014. More then 4,000 beaches and 650 marinas fly the Blue Flags worldwide.
Favourite Greek places
Notable monasteries of Skiathos
Skiathos has some notable monasteries including St John of Parthenis, St Charalambos, Evangelistria (Annunciation) and Panaghia Eikounistria (Holy Virgin). All are set in pretty spots and have beautiful interiors.
Sappho's leap of wild beauty
Sappho's Leap is on the southerly tip of Lefkas and a place of wild beauty near the resort beach of Porto Katsiki. It is said to be where the Greek poet Sappho threw herself off the white cliff, a victim of unrequited love.
Hot springs of Eftalou Lesvos
The hot salt springs at Eftalou on Lesvos reach around 45°C with waters good for treating rheumatism and arthritis. The renovated bath house has private rooms and a public pool on the north-west tip of Lesvos.
Scuba diving off the Greek Islands got a new lease of life when diving bans were lifted. Now Greek scuba dive centres are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. Until recently, diving was limited to just a few Greek island dive sites in order to protect the ancient underwater treasures that lie beneath its seas. Now scuba diving is allowed pretty much everywhere in Greek seas with just a few prohibited sites. The result has been a sharp rise in the number of Greek Island diving centres. In choosing one for your holiday be sure to check that instructors are PADI qualified and the wise will take out specialist scuba diving insurance just in case. That said, the crystal clear waters of Greece are teeming with marine life and there are some spectacular caves and shipwrecks for Greek Island visitors to explore.
Planning ahead has always been a headache for those who like Greek island hopping on the extensive ferry system. Summer timetables were never published before May making it hard work to plan a Greek holiday on more than a couple of islands. Now things are different. Ferry companies got together and agreed to release summer routes and schedules at the end of the previous year. The move makes it possible for Greek holiday enthusiasts to cash in on holiday discounts for booking cheap flights early safe in the knowledge that they will not find themselves stuck on an island for days trying to find out when the next ferry sailing is scheduled. The much-welcomed move should help boost visitor numbers to the Greek Islands and help extend the holiday season.
Seaplane flights in the Greek Islands could take off early in 2016 but no one is holding their breath. Hellenic Seaplanes say flight trials could start as early as February next year with up to 100 routes operating for the summer holiday season. But it's not the first time that the launch has been delayed. Pledges to start flights in 2015 ended when ports failed to apply for licenses to operate waterways. Corfu was the only island with a waterways license despite the Greek government cutting through red tape in a bid to get the scheme off the ground. The recent economic upheavals have taken their toll with investors now less enthusiastic about the project. Hellenic Seaplanes says 30 minute seaplane flight will cost €30-75 with up to 19 passengers per flight.
There are more than 6,000 Greek Islands but most are just lumps of rock. Only around 230 are inhabited and about 80 have a population over 100. About a dozen are major holiday destinations with another 20 having substantial tourist visitors. There are six basic island groupings: the Ionian lie to the west and contain holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the north-east is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete - big enough to be on its own.